West Valley City • The recently completed Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas was so large that it drew 67,000 attendees who wandered through over 12 miles of aisles and booths, with all the top new firearms in the world on display.
That’s why it is impressive that a small West Valley City-based gun manufacturer named Desert Tech earned top five "best of show" ratings from gun writer Matt Korovesis of the Outdoor Hub website, for its Micro Dynamic Rifle, or MDR, slated to be available in 2015.
"For me, the Desert Tech MDR stole the show," wrote Korovesis. "Combining Desert Tech’s reputation for well-made guns and a modern semiautomatic bullpup design seems to be a winning matchup."
The 50-employee Utah company was founded in 2007 as Desert Tactical Arms by Nick Young, a Utah-born entrepreneur who was an avid competitive shooter in college.
According to company marketing manager Seth Ercanbrack, Desert Tech sells its versatile rifle line primarily to the military and law enforcement, though civilians into long-distance target shooting or hunting also purchase the rifles, which are put together and mostly manufactured in Utah.
The company made a recent stir when it turned down a chance to bid on a potential $10 million deal with the Pakistan military due to fears the rifles could end up in the hands of terrorists who could use them against American targets.
The three rifles it has been selling retail for as low as $3,086 to $7,500. They are primarily bolt action sniper rifles, called the SRS (Stealth Recon Scout) A-1, SRS A-1 Covert and HTI (Hard Target Interdiction). They can be accurate up to 2,000 yards.
"You only have to use one scope for everything you do," said Ercanbrack. "Scopes can be extremely expensive. If you have three different guns to shoot three different calibers with three different scopes, you end up spending a lot of money on them. We consolidate."
Ercanbrack said the rifles are precision-made, built in a bullpup design that makes them smaller and lighter. They are known for being extremely accurate. The original rifles were so popular at the 2013 SHOT Show that the company has since been scrambling to fill orders.
One of the big selling points for the company is that its rifles come with the ability to shoot as many as seven different caliber shells. This, says Ercanbrack, is important because different calibers serve different purposes. Plus, military shooters can train on the rifle using less expensive ammunition and then use pricier bullets in real-world situations.
The rifles also offer interchangeable barrels.
The new MDR rifle also is capable of being an automatic weapon for military or law enforcement use or a semi-automatic for civilian use. It features a short 10.5-inch barrel, which means that civilian buyers must register it as a short-barreled rifle with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
"Two main variants will be produced: the 27.12-inch long MDR [initially available in .223 and .308] with a 16-inch barrel, and the 21.62-inch long MDR-C [initially available in .223] with a 10.5-inch barrel," wrote Korovesis. "The .223 model will feed from standard AR mags and the .308 from standard SR-25 mags."
Since the used brass ejects forward instead of sideways, the new rifle can be used by left- or right-handed shooters without the need for modification.
Ercanbrack said the company owns a 25,000-acre piece of land in northern Utah where its rifles can be tested by potential buyers.
The rifles are complex technological wonders and are unusual because the bolt and magazine are behind the triggers, unlike most rifles.
At the West Valley City plant, machinist Jonathan Wayman displayed a computerized machine that performs over 200 operations.
"There are different features we mill using 25 different tools," he said.
The factory floor can be a busy place these days as the company tries to meet demand for its three original rifles. And it already has a waiting list for its newest creation, set to go on sale next year.
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